In around six weeks, David Kidwell could find redemption.

Or, if things go sour, he might be facing rejection. The Rugby League World Cup, which kicks off on Friday with England facing Australia in Melbourne, feels like the final roll of the dice for the Kiwis coach.

His contract expires at the end of the tournament, and to win a new deal, he needs to have his New Zealand team going on an upward trajectory.

Not many expect the Kiwis to win the tournament, especially after the slew of high-profile withdrawals they have had to deal with. Australia are short-priced favourites, given the wealth of talent at their disposal and their impressive form since Mal Meninga took over 18 months ago, while Wayne Bennett's England look strong and Tonga have a formidable roster.


But the Kiwis, with up to five matches on home soil, will be expected to continue their solid record in the World Cup, where they haven't missed a final since 1995.

It won't be easy, and Kidwell has made some big calls, especially his move to stand down Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor after their indiscretions in Canberra in May. The omission of long-serving hooker Issac Luke was also a brave move, and this is the first Kiwis camp in four years to be without the services of Tohu Harris, one of the most effective forwards across the NRL.

Kidwell has also been unlucky, losing first-choice assistant coaches Steve MacNamara (Catalan Dragons) and Garth Brennan (Gold Coast Titans) to NRL head coaching positions.

But maybe, just maybe, the next six weeks will be Kidwell's time to shine. He seems more sure of himself than a year ago, when he was thrust into the role after Stephen Kearney's abrupt departure to the Warriors.

He'll also enjoy the chance to prepare his side to face someone other than the Kangaroos over the next three weeks.

Neither Samoa, Scotland or Tonga will be easy, but there won't be the zero margin for error that is part of facing Australia.

Kidwell will be able to try different combinations and strategies, and hopefully get wins under his belt. Up until now, that has been the struggle, facing the Australians in four of his first six test matches.

Circumstances have also worked against Kidwell, denied the services of key men like Simon Mannering, Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for long periods of his reign.

But Kidwell has gone in for this tournament, placing his faith in an unusual buildup, with some left-field selections and a revised game plan. While every other nation has had warmup matches, Kidwell chose to instead spend three days in a marae.

As the Kangaroos and the Lions were relaxing in five-star hotels, the Kiwis were sleeping on mattresses in a large room and helping to cook their own meals.

"It went really well," said Kiwis prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

"It was a great idea. Just being able to connect as a team, to remember our roots and where we came from. And it's also about communication ... you have to talk to each other when there are 40 of you in the same room."

Kidwell is also placing his faith on different tactics, knowing you can't beat the Kangaroos at their own, highly structured game.

Expect to see a different approach from New Zealand, with more flair and a high-paced game played closer to the advantage line.

"We know the challenges that is in front of us but things have started really well," said Waerea-Hargreaves.

"I have a lot of belief in what we can achieve."

The Kiwis had an opposed session against the Glenora Bears yesterday at Mt Smart, and continue their preparations today in Auckland, ahead of their opening clash of the tournament with Samoa next Saturday.